More than 200 British businesses including Tesco and Lloyds Banking Group have called on Boris Johnson to focus on a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, saying this will ultimately strengthen economic growth.
Chief executives from across the economy have signed an open letter urging the prime minister to ensure that any stimulus measures fit in with Britain's climate change goals and make the country more resilient to future shocks.
The letter said: "With the UK facing major economic and social concerns including the risk of high unemployment and rising regional inequality, we believe that an ambitious low carbon growth and environmental improvement agenda can do a lot to address these concerns."
Other signatories include the chairman of Shell UK and leaders of companies in industries as diverse as retail and utilities.
The letter calls for businesses to be told they must sign up to environmental measures if they want taxpayer support, and for carbon taxes to help drive green innovation.
John Pettigrew, chief executive of National Grid, said: “We’ve estimated that the energy sector alone will need hundreds of thousands of new recruits as we work towards net zero, and believe that an economic recovery with climate action at its heart will be key to unlocking these opportunities.”
The UK has set a legally binding target to get its greenhouse gas emissions down to net zero - where as much is coming out of the atmosphere as going in - by 2050.
Britain will next year host the delayed international climate summit COP26, and ministers have indicated they broadly favour a clean recovery from the crisis. However, they are yet to outline any specific green measures.
The crisis has led to an estimated 8pc annual reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions, but there are concerns any gains could be easily reversed if countries pursue a dirty recovery as seen in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.
A recent report from consultant McKinsey argued that a low-carbon stimulus package could spur economic recovery and job creation.
It followed a study from the University of Oxford that found climate-friendly stimulus measures create more jobs and deliver higher returns.
The study suggested the Government could focus on investment in renewable energy production, or providing green jobs such as improving insulation in the country’s existing inefficient housing stock - a project that has been likened to a post-war recovery effort.